Othello is regarded as one of the most significant works of literature from the Elizabethan Period; Here are writing prompts on essays about Othello.
Othello (1603) is a tragic tale of love, war, jealousy, and revenge. Set in the 1500s during the Ottoman-Venetian War, the play follows General Othello, his wife Desdemona, and Iago, one of his soldiers. Lago is bitter after being overlooked for a promotion; he takes his revenge on his general, Othello, by deceiving him into thinking that his wife Desdemona has been unfaithful. This leads Othello to kill her, then ultimately kill himself.
The themes that Othello embodies are enduring and relatable, as we still see the issues that the play’s characters experience. As a result, the story has been adapted countless times and is considered one of the greatest plays of all time.
To write insightful essays about Othello, you can start by reading these examples.
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1. Enduring Value – Othello by Brett Horton
“Shakespeare’s portrayal of Othello as being an outsider, and being ‘othered’ by the Venetian society due to his different race, reflects traditional Elizabethan values and principles concerning racial prejudice and inequality. These repeating problems, of social intolerance and racial bias are common concerns in our modern society. Shakespeare’s expresses the nature of villainy through his antagonist, ago, as he explores problems of betrayal and deceit.”
Horton writes about Othello’s value due to its profound exploration of intrinsic human traits. In particular, prejudice is still prevalent, and Horton briefly explains how the play displays this theme. In conjunction, he writes about how in contrast with the prejudice against his complexion, Othello is all too trusting, which does not allow him to see Iago’s betrayal.
2. Othello and Reputation by Joe Richards
“Without Iago’s honest reputation, he would have never been able to convince Othello that Desdemona was committing adultery. In addition Cassio’s diminished reputation fuelled Iago’s lie about Desdemona, making it easier for Othello to believe lago. Finally, Othello’s high rank in the military restricted him from confronting Desdemona about the possibility of an affair, which prevents the truth from emerging.”
In his essay, Richards discusses the effects of the characters’ reputations on the play’s events. Iago uses his reputation as an honest, virtuous soldier to make his plan successful, manipulating the other characters to serve his needs. On the other hand, Othello’s reputation prevents him from confronting Desdemona about a supposed affair, which was unacceptable during this time.
3. Othello Gullible by Ross Vasquez
“He trusts Iago too much and totally relies on ago therefore making him really vulnerable to Iago’s evilish schemes. Othello’s gullibility causes him to be jealous. He let’s his jealousy take over, he looses control of himself and acts on his jealous emotions, he let’s his jealousy clutter his mind and good judgment.”
Vasquez analyzes the character of Othello and focuses on a key trait that allows the play to transpire as it does: his gullibility. He is far too trusting and believes his “loyal” soldiers, such as Iago, without any doubt. This, in turn, leads him to listen to Iago’s lies, making him jealous and turning him against his wife. Vasquez’s message is clear, concise, and logical: Othello is greatly flawed, and his flaw leads to his unfortunate end.
Looking for more? You might also be interested in these essays about Hamlet.
4. Why Is Othello Black? By Isaac Butler
“Othello could be talking about Desdemona as the abused Venetian or, according to Sisneros, ‘he could be even referring to himself. He killed the good part of himself, thus ‘traducing’ the Venetian state.’ Either way, it’s hard to escape the sense that Othello is explicitly saying he has ‘turned Turk’ by the end of the play.
It could also be that Othello’s blackness provided Shakespeare a new way to explore questions that consumed his playwriting at this time in his career: What is identity, and how is it formed? What is a man? What is an Englishman?”
Butler puts Othello’s race at the forefront of this essay, in which he speculates on any hidden meanings behind Othello’s dark complexion. In particular, he presents a theory by which the character’s blackness represents his true essence; as the play goes on, Othello’s mannerisms change to more stereotypically “uncivilized” behaviors. Shakespeare may have used Othello’s character to reflect many people’s belief at the time that black converts to Christianity could not completely change.
5. A Reflection on Shakespeare’s Othello by Myers McKinney
“Ensnared in Iago’s half-truths and innuendos, Othello lives in a false world instead of the true one. By failing to question Iago and his motives, Othello instead questions Desdemona and Cassio and their motives. To use the phrase of the revolutionary, Friedrich Engels, we could say that Othello falls into a state of ‘false consciousness’ because of the counsel of Iago. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, Othello allowed what Van Til called a ‘false ideal of knowledge’ to become ultimate and authoritative in his interpretation of reality.”
As its title suggests, McKinney’s essay reflects on Othello’s fall from a respected military general to a disgraced murderer. Iago’s deception in the form of “half-truths” combined with Othello’s willingness to believe and trust his subordinates allows the story to play out as it does. McKinney discusses the importance of sometimes questioning things rather than always taking them at face value.
Top 6 Writing Prompts on Essays About Othello
1. Why Is Othello A Classic
Based on your understanding of the story, write about the importance of the play and why others should at least look into reading them. Briefly discuss the plot, characters, and themes, and try to convince others to read Othello. Of course, this topic would be much more suitable if you have already read or watched the play. In this essay, you can discuss the main themes of the play and why it had such an impact on society.
2. What Is Othello’s Tragic Flaw?
As a tragedy, Othello’s eponymous protagonist has a central flaw in his character that leads to his downfall. While a few flaws can be identified, which do you believe is the main issue that allows the story to transpire as it does? First, identify it, discuss it and give examples of instances in which it is seen. Finally, analyze how these situations lead to Othello’s downfall and discuss if this could have been prevented.
3. Othello and Un Capitano Moro
As with many of Shakespeare’s other dramas, Othello is based on earlier literature, in this case, Cinthio’s short story Un Capitano Moro. Read the source text and compare and contrast it with Shakespeare’s version. Discuss how these two written works are similar and how they are different. Compare the main themes of each and decide whether or not you believe these two texts are similar.
4. Racial Prejudice In Othello
In your essay, you can discuss the prevalent theme of race, and racial prejudice, to be exact. Ask yourself: does Othello’s race impact the play? Delve into this question for an interesting argumentative essay. Discuss the hypotheticals, such as: would the story’s events play out differently if he were like the other characters? Remember the period in which the characters lived- times were very different back then. Be sure to cite text evidence to support your arguments.
5. Jealousy In Othello
Another central theme of Othello is jealousy. In your essay, discuss how jealousy is shown throughout the play. You can highlight this theme by quoting dialogue that shows a jealous tone in a character’s voice or actions. In this essay, make sure to include multiple quotations from the play to provide supporting details.
6. Why Is Othello Timeless?
The story of Othello has been adapted and referenced repeatedly, whether in film, television, music, art, or even games. What is it about the play that makes other creators and artists keep coming back to it? Why is it still performed today? You can include some aspects of the play that make it “relatable” to us humans, even in such a different time.
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